Last Wednesday, Costa Rica caught the tail end of Hurricane Nate. Millions of dollars in damage were done to the road system within Costa Rica. The roadways here have always left a little to be desired, but this storm sought out soft spots and made their short comings obvious.
A friend of ours noted 52 slides (large and small) visible between Copey and Santa Maria. A distance of about 8.2 kilometers (5.0 miles).
We have been so impressed with the response from roadway repair and clearing crews, telephone restoration and the power company. The response was rapid, they genuinely cared about getting services restored. The day after the storm, we walked down the road and found crews working on a slide near our friends home in Copey. Not even 24 hours after the storm passed, and at an very remote location in the mountains, there they were- working hard to get passage through.
That being said, a slide down river of Hush Valley knocked power lines into the river. Putting Rio Blanco and Copey out of power. Unfortunately, the parts to repair it were in San Jose, and the road to San Jose had been washed out. The delay meant we were without power for several days while the parts were shipped in via air.
We were surprised to find how well equipped we were to withstand the lack of power. Hot water was still available so showers and dish washing were not a problem. Both the casita and the house have wood burning cook stoves as well.
Once he got the hang of baking in a wood burning oven, Dave was inspired. He made cookies, sour dough bread, quiche, and scones. There is quite an art to keeping the temperature consistent in the oven.
Without power, Quinn and I stayed busy outside. There was a hillside going up to the fish ponds that could get rather slippery. We dug out stairs, but found they, too, were muddy and slippery when it rained. So we came up with an idea.
Just prior to the storm, we had pulled out the cracked concrete bottom out of one of the hatchery tanks, with the intent to re-concrete prior to our next batch of hatchlings.
Quinn and I took the concrete, and made a mosaic like pattern on the steps to help keep the steps stable, and our feet out of the mud. Its not quite done yet, but its close. The sides will have river rock, native plants, and solar lights for each step, as we occasionally need to come check the ponds after dark. Its difficult to see in the picture, but on the third step up, in red, green and yellow river rock (all debris from the storm), there are three letters. HVL. Our little rock hound, Quinn, had this idea and gathered up the rocks.
Hush Valley Lodge fared well in the storm. However, the river grew very large and transformed the waterfall garden, into a rock garden. I guess even Mother Nature likes to redecorate occasionally. Check out these before and after pictures.
There are some amazing looking rocks among all the debris. From above you can see just how many rocks were deposited.
Its exciting to see all of the possibilities of this area. To the left, the brown patch is all soft river sand. This is a rather large area ( though you cant tell in the picture) and would be great for sand volleyball, a picnic area, or a nice river rock campfire circle. The area sits up in elevation from the river several feet, so unless we see another hurricane soon, that area should be nice and dry, and ready for grooming. Any great ideas on how to re-shape the 'rock garden'?
This week we have been busy assessing the wonders of HVL. So many fresh fruits grow naturally here! On the property there are Avocados, peaches, lemons, limes, tamarindo (sweet oranges), and others we have yet to identify..
It inspired us to see what we might grow in the island gardens.
On the island there is a garden shed, with ample water, a huge passion fruit vine, a ghost pepper bush (it's prolific but I've been scared to try them) an enormous rosemary bush and several lovely floral plants. There have been garden beds there in the past and we thought we could revive them this year. We intend to be able to grow most of our own food for the property, and provide healthy organic goods to our guests and neighbors.
Quinn and I planted carrots, beans, melons, tomatoes, onions, summer squash, corn, spinach, watermelon, pineapples, and sweet peppers. They went crazy in the rich soil here! Viable sprouts in four days.
The soil is composted matter from the property. We added ash to it, but nothing else. The locals say to add bones to our compost and it will act like a 'Miracle Grow', but we don't have a lot of bones laying around (thankfully!).
The sprouts inspired us to get to work on the cleaning up the garden shed. Its the rainy season still, but the mornings are beautiful, so we spent several hours each morning working on the island.
This week we will be planting seeds for Cilantro, cucumber, zucchini, golden berries, and various other herbs.
Fresh organic foods make such a difference in how food tastes! We cant wait to be providing our guests, family and friends food we have grown from start to finish.
I like to call Dave a 'Culinary Engineer'. He makes the most amazing meals. Lately, he has been experimenting with baking. The flour here is different, as is the altitude ( 6700-7000 feet!) so it has been a process to get the correct time, temp and humidity for good baking. So far, he has made bagels, croissants, and various bread loafs. This week, he is working on a sour dough start, as we have been told that sour dough does very well here.
Thanks to all who have commented on the blog! I appreciate the feedback, Please don't hesitate to ask about anything you're curious about at Hush Valley, we are happy to answer if we can. I intend to release the blog every Monday, should the internet God's allow it. :-) Lastly, if you haven't seen it, Quinn has his blog available at www.thecostaricakid.weebly.com. He works so hard on his little blog, and has so much to say. Check it out!
Hello Friends of Hush Valley!
David and I are thrilled to be the new stewards of Hush Valley Lodge. We (and our partners) are committed to doing our best to maintain the peace and serenity you have come to love about this Hush Valley paradise.
As a past reader of the weekly blog, I can only hope to keep you all as intrigued as Anne has over the past five years.
Its been a whirlwind since arrival. We spent a fast and furious 48 hours of training with Kevin and Anne. Most of the time spent learning the ins and outs of operating a trout farm. So much thought, and a lot of planning go into the process. Feed schedules, pond cleaning schedules, the quality and quantity of water that goes to the ponds, as well as counting, catching, transferring and harvesting the most delicious trout we have ever eaten. Its been so very educational!
Kevin said, more than once, that it was too bad we had had such great weather to learn in. He was hoping we would have some inclement weather to really experience the rush of water and sediment that come down the river. It wasn't hours after they left that we got to experience that first hand. It began to rain about 2:00 p.m. and it rained hard until about 7:00 p.m.
The thing about the rain here - as opposed to our home in Oregon- is that its warm, and because it comes straight down, you can still sit on the (covered) deck outside. It can actually be quite lovely.
On that particular Sunday it wasn't quite so lovely. Water rushed down the hill side, bringing sediment into the river and ponds. Sticks, rocks, leaves, etc- clogged the grates and had us panicking on our first day.
With out exaggeration, no less than six neighbors called and asked how we were doing and if we needed any help mitigating the water. It was so touching. This community was a huge part of the 'tug' that brought our little family here.
Our friend (and co-worker) Johnathon came, and Dave and he walked the property- identifying places that could use drainage improvement while it was really coming down.
This kind of rain has occurred thrice this week. We have been told multiple times that its uncommon to see this amount of water. We have lost power and internet on several occasions, but the power company is diligent in restoring services usually within the hour.
There is an undeniable beauty here, even in the rainy season. It can be terrifying to the unfamiliar though, so we understand why the BNB is closed in September and October.
We feel so grateful that its just rain, with minor inconveniences, given the catastrophes occurring worldwide. We are confident that it will not be an issue for us Pacific North-Westerners.
We are used to being soaking wet. :-)
Pictured below, a normal day on the river, compared to a stormy river.
Our eight year old son also started school here this past week. He loves it! The school is small, and within a comfortable walking distance of Hush Valley Lodge. There are three other students in his class, which makes learning easy according to Quinn. He hopes to have his own web page soon, seeing Costa Rica through the eyes of a child.
This morning, Bobbie McGee slipped in unnoticed to attend classes with Quinn. She would have stayed all day if she could have. She sure loves him, and it's definitely mutual.
Also pictured is Thomas, a new friend.
So much to say after this busy first week! Stayed tuned for updates weekly, and thank you for reading!
Our flights were both on time and both landed early. The skies were clear. All documents in hand were the correct ones, both planes were comfortable with lots of leg room. Frankie was an absolute gem the whole way. It couldn't have gone more smoothly.
We landed in Toronto at 5:00 pm and my daughter, Phoenix, picked us up five minutes after we stood at our pick-up spot. If I weren't loaded down with heavy luggage, I would have knelt and kissed the ground of my homeland. It's been quite the roller coaster ride getting back.
We're now in Motel 6, in our room. Kevin's sister, Kaz, came by with a care package for us with lots of food and goodie... totally spoiled. And now they went to get us some dinner.
Tomorrow we go to pick up our rental car, do some banking, and start organizing our resettlement in suburbia. It all feels a bit surreal right now.
Thank you all for hanging in with us, all your comments of support (and sympathy). This blog journey ends for me now, for a while anyway. If I decide to start another, I'll keep you posted.
It's been so very thrilling. I highly recommend following your tug!!
Over and out!
Well, it's 5:47 am and we're sitting at the airport gate 10, waiting for our first flight!! Dave was kind enough to get up in the middle of the night to drive us here. We asked him if he would mind coming into the airport to make sure we were able to check in. Both Kevin and I were pretty anxious. The check-in attendant was very nice and calm (very little facial expression),and it took an exceptionally long time to get the tags for our luggage printed (apparently there were printer problems we found out later). So standing around waiting to hear if everything was okay felt excruciating. Then he asked for the exportation document for Frankie... boy, was Kevin ever ready. More waiting. No expression. But, all was good. Huge sigh of relief, let me tell you. When he gave us our boarding passes, he mentioned that he made sure our luggage would go directly to Canada... we don't have to pick them up in Miami. Woot!! Thank you, dear sir!!
Frankie is being as sweet as pie. She's in her little crate at my feet as I write this and not a peep. Kevin went for a stroll, decompressing. It looks like we're on our way for real this time!!
Kevin drove into San Jose yesterday to pick up the exportation document for Frankie. He left extra early not knowing how bad the traffic would be on Independence Day (Costa Rica starts its parades and celebrations early). The drive ended up being free and breezy and Kevin arrived at the vet's an hour early. He parked the car and took a walk around the neighbourhood. Most people would be thrilled to stumble upon a coffee shop, but my husband was tickled to see a hardware store... and it was open! So he browsed in there until it was time to get back to the vet's for 8 am. He was the first customer to be served. They had the document ready. The vet (the very helpful woman who examined Frankie's paperwork two weeks ago and was the one to give us the news that Frankie would not be able to fly until Sept 17 due to her rabies shot) was there to greet Kevin, and so were the assistant and cashier who were all involved in our crisis. They wished us good luck with our departure and hoped that everything goes well. Our own personal cheerleading squad.
Kevin called me to say "I have the document in my hands!!" Woot!!! You have no idea how happy that phone call made me.
From the vet's, Kevin drove to where Krista, Dave, and Quinn had lodged for the night. It wasn't far from the vet's, but the parades were now blocking roads. Once he managed to navigate through the crowded streets, it was clear sailing. They stopped in at Price Smart (equivalent to Costco) to pick up a few things and were home by 11:15 am. Very productive morning with a big sigh of relief... for us... but also for Krista, Dave and Quinn. Their adventure can finally begin in earnest. We're really excited for them. Kevin and I have been going down memory lane, reminiscing of our early days here. So many news things, so much to learn.
In the meantime, we've been keeping a close eye on our flight status. So far, both our flights (Costa Rica to Miami, and Miami to Toronto) are scheduled to leave on time. We will be leaving at 2:30 am just like last time (except this time Dave will be driving us to the airport) and our flight leaves at 7 am. Fingers crossed it all goes as planned! Send us some good vibes!
Since driving Krista and Quinn to the airport last Wednesday, we have resumed our farm duties until they return at the end of this week. The weather has been sublimely beautiful in the mornings: clear blue skies, no wind, and warm. I spent one morning taking advantage of it by lounging in the hammock.
arMeanwhile, on Friday, there was a massive earthquake in the southern part of Mexico. There was a tsunami warning for the Pacific Coast all the way down to Costa Rica. I had to hear this news from Krista, who was in Oregon. We watched the news to see what was happening (not that a tsunami would reach us at 7,000 ft in elevation. I had to ask friends who live closer to the beach area to see if they felt any effect. I was told the waves grew large enough for good surfing, but that's about it. Nothing more than that. Phew.
And of course, we've been glued to the TV watching the progress of Hurricane Irma. Not only do we have friends who live in Florida and we're concern for their safety, but our layover is in Miami next Sunday, so we're curious to see if our flight will be cancelled based on the possible damage. It seemed very probably, but then the hurricane track shifted further west so who knows... maybe luck will be on our side... maybe. It all remains to be seen: we like living on the edge!
So for all you readers who sent all your sympathies our way, thank you! And for all you readers who have encouraged us to take it easy and take some time to enjoy more of Costa Rica.... good idea, but no cigar. And here's why...
Krista received some news yesterday (some unforeseen circumstances) that have come up in Oregon and she is needed back home. Krista talked to us and asked if it would be at all possible for us to resume our duties on the farm for a week while she goes back to attend to these matters. It's all just beyond her control, so of course we agreed. We know the drill and are happy to help out. After much scrambling, trying to find flights, she was able to book for tomorrow morning at 5:45 am. Krista, Quinn and I will leave here at 1:30 am to drive down to the airport. Then Krista, Quinn, and Dave will return next week, Thursday, September 14th. They will stay overnight near the airport and Kevin will drive down on Friday, September 15th to the vet's to pick up the exportation document for Frankie and then go pick up the gang before heading back to Hush Valley Lodge. Oh, just to make it interesting, September 15th is Independence Day in Costa Rica, so there will be lots of parades and people celebrating in the streets... so the goal is to get out of San Jose as soon as possible... let's see how that works out, shall we?
Kevin and I will stay on the property and take care of things while they're away. It makes perfect sense. And I can't help think that we weren't meant to be on that plane on Sunday for this very reason. Who knows?
In the meantime, we found out that Irma, one of the worst hurricanes in history, is picking up strength in the Atlantic Ocean. It's heading for Puerto Rico and on its way towards Florida. We're really hoping that it hits land well before the 17th... because our layover is in... wait for it... Miami!! I don't know whether to laugh or cry!
We're choosing to believe everything will be okay and our flight won't be affected. What's the point of worrying, eh?
Well, we're still in Costa Rica. Yep. I will borrow a sentiment from our good friend, Mark.... "apparently our tug is experiencing some resistance!"
We got to the airport yesterday morning in good time. No rushing around, no stress. We got to the check-in counter and we weighed our luggage, paid the fee, no problem. We got our boarding passes, no problem. Then, the last sentence was "we need to see the dog's documentation".... no problem. We handed over the vet's signed declaration that Frankie has received her rabies shot and is fit to fly. We were feeling confident. We were then asked for the government exportation document. "Excuse me? What?" Our vet didn't give us any such form. Big problem. "I'm sorry, your dog cannot fly without this document." The strangest thing is this document is not for the U.S. or Canada... it's merely a Costa Rica regulation (your pet needs this document to prove she's healthy to fly OUT of Costa Rica... how crazy is that!)
So, a very nice young man, Luis, on the other side of the counter who spoke English dropped everything he was doing to help us. He called to different departments to see if we could get an official at the airport to sign the document since we had proof of her good health signed by our vet. He led us down to the Customs area and we waited as he investigated the situation. He came back saying that nothing can be done at the airport, a vet must fill out all the paperwork from the department of agriculture. We would have to find a vet near the airport (keeping in mind it's now 7:00 am on a Sunday). We'd have to wait several hours regardless for businesses to open. Luis offered to find some vets in the area for us to call, but we no longer had a cell phone, so he then offered to call for us and see if he could confirm an appointment with someone, somewhere... and give us an address and have a taxi driver get us there. Luis then rescheduled our flight for the next morning (today) for 6:55 am (with two layovers, not ideal, but beggars can't be choosers, right?).
Luis found out that the vet that is closest to the airport is not open until noon. We would have to wait until then to call. He gave us the phone number, but offered to help us at noon after the end of his shift at work. We thanked him and he left us to go work at the gate for the flight we couldn't take. Digging the knife a little deeper.
We needed to solve our accommodation issue for the night, as well. Where would we stay? We decided to call a former guest, Ronny, who runs a B&B near the airport to see if we could possibly stay with him for the night. I looked around for a pay phone. I found some phones lined up on the wall outside the airport, but none of them worked (I guess with everyone having cell phones these days, the demand has declined significantly). So now what do I do? There was a homeless man in a wheelchair begging for change. He was watching me go from phone to phone and probably saw my exasperation when none worked. He called me over and put his hand in his pocket and produced a shiny iPhone. I wasn't kidding when I said "everyone" has a cell phone. How times have changed. I called Ronny, , but no answer (I had retrieved his number from my saved files on my computer before I started looking for a phone to use). I thanked the homeless man for his kindness and gave him my leftover coins (I write "homeless", but that's a judgement on my part, this man could very well have a home and family to go to at the end of his workday).
After the phone fiasco, I came back and joined Kevin in the concourse of the airport, feeling deflated. We decided to move our luggage and Frankie up to the second level and camp out in the airport cafe where there was free internet access. We settled in. We took turns watching our stuff and Frankie while the other went to the washroom, or to buy a beverage. Poor Frankie was snuggled in her crate the whole time so we took her out for walks, got her bowl out and gave her some water and a bit of food. She was such a good girl.
We didn't waste any time to reach Krista to let her know what was happening. We asked her if she could Google other possible vets near the airport in case she might find one that was open earlier. She was a star!! She called a few vets, but without much success. No answer. Then she was able to get a hold of a vet that was open, but fully booked. Krista explained our situation and the vet said we were welcome to wait around in her office in case one of her clients didn't show up, she would then see Frankie (but no guarantees). We could either wait at the airport, which started to feel hopeless and like nothing was being resolved, making us feel even more antsy or we could wait at the vet's with a slight possibility of Frankie being seen. The latter option felt like a step forward. We were feeling lucky! So, we dragged our four suitcases, our very heavy knapsack and Frankie, and headed to the taxi line.
Jerry, big smile on his face, approached us and spoke a little English. We explained that we needed to get to City Mall. No problem... ten minutes... $5 ride. "Okay... let's go!" While Jerry was getting us to our destination, Kevin asked him if he knew of any vets that would be open. Jerry thought, and said since it was Sunday, most would not be open before noon. He immediately called a friend or family member, not sure, spoke Spanish into his phone, then hung up. "There is a vet just a little further, maybe you want to check if they are open?" Kevin said "Sure! Thank you. How much?" "Oh, $2 more, no problem". Off we go. A few minutes later we reached a strip mall. I stayed in the car with all our belongings and Frankie, and Jerry and Kevin hopped out of the car to check if the vet was open and whether an appointment could be made. No such luck. The vet office didn't open until 1 pm. So we decided to go back to the original plan... City Mall... where we "might" be able to see the vet... but maybe not. Jerry was on the case, he didn't like that we might have to wait several hours only to not get any further ahead. He was on the phone again. We drove by a huge agricultural veterinarian building. Jerry slowed down (barely) and squeezed his car between two other cars and parked. Jerry and Kevin got out again to ask if there was any chance of Frankie seeing a vet. A minute later, Jerry comes to get me and Frankie. Things were looking up. We thanked Jerry. He said "no problem"... and told us he would be happy to wait for us. There was no discussion of how much this would all cost, but by this point, it was the last thing we were worried about. It would all be worth it if we could get this document. Kevin and I explained the situation to the cashier. She explained that it was not a matter of a vet being able to simply sign and stamp a form. A vet must examine the dog, fill out the form, then send it to the government agency that prepares the final document with all the different government departments' stamps, etc. So, it doesn't matter which vet we were going to see that day, the outcome would be the same. This process could be hastened and it "could" be possible to get the official document by the following day, soonest 9:30 am (which means 1:30 pm in Costa Rica, if we were lucky). But our flight was leaving at 6:55 am... no use. Sigh. The cashier said it would be a good idea for the vet to check all the current documents to make sure we had everything in order just in case something was missing. Good idea, indeed!!
So we waited for the vet, Raquel (which just happens to be the same name as our vet in San Marcos) to see Frankie. Fifteen minutes passed. Jerry was sitting in his cab with our 4 big suitcases (we took our knapsack with all important things with us). Jerry's car was out of sight from where we were standing. Jerry is a really nice guy, but we didn't know him from Adam, so we kept peeking to see that he hadn't absconded with our stuff. Let's not add insult to injury. No, he was still there. I went up to his car window and apologized for the amount to time it was taking... "no problem, no problem". Again, no mention of how much this was going to cost us. Couldn't worry about that. We were sleep deprived, hungry and a little punch drunk. Having Jerry hang around, even for moral support, brought us some comfort. Raquel came out and said she could see Frankie. Kevin went in with Frankie and I stayed outside to keep an eye on things. Raquel speaks English and communication wasn't a problem. After several minutes, 20 maybe, Kevin came out and said I needed to hear what the vet was telling him. So I followed, leaving our friend Jerry to his own devices. I listened to Raquel tell us that Frankie cannot fly before September 17th!!! What? Why? She explained that an animal cannot fly within the first month of having its rabies shot. Frankie had hers on August 16th. So even if we would rush around, still we would not be able to book to be on the next available fight, which is this Thursday. Even if the government agency had all the documents ready for us today, we'd still have to wait two weeks before being allowed to fly. And, no, we would never leave without Frankie (just sayin').
Kevin and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and decided it would be best to simply drive back to Hush Valley Lodge. We ask Jerry if he would be willing to drive us all the way back "home" and he agreed. How much to drive us back? "$120"... "Okay, let's go".
On the way, we borrowed Jerry's phone to call Krista to let her know we were on our way back. And to ask her if she could pick us up at La Trinidad because Jerry's car was not a 4X4. Krista had gone out and didn't get any of our messages so we thought it best to be dropped off in Santa Maria and get a 4x4 taxi from there. Jerry dropped us off and when we asked him "how much?" he replied "$125" ... he didn't charge us for all the time he spent waiting for us, he didn't charge us for the time he took to help us, he didn't charge us for the use of his phone, he didn't even charge us for the extra $2 to get us to the first mall. Kevin added and extra $10 to the charge. I was busy letting Frankie relieve herself, and with being as tired as we were, once Jerry left, we both thought "we only tipped him $10?" We did get his phone number so we will call him next week when we have to go back into San Jose so that we can make it right. We really do want to show our appreciation. We have to go back on September 15th to pick up the exportation document for Frankie (oh yes, this document is valid only for 10 days, so if we don't get a flight within 10 days of receiving this document, we will need to go through this whole process again... so we better be on that flight on September 17th.)
We took our luggage out of Jerry's taxi and hired a Santa Maria taxi who said he had 4x4. It shook, rattled and rolled. We didn't think we'd make it. Then half way between Copey and Rio Blanco, Kevin notices Krista driving behind us. We waved her down... her jaw dropped. We then paid the taxi driver and transferred all our stuff to the SUV and drove home together.
And this is how we spend Sunday, August 3rd. We got "home", back to the casita completely exhausted. Krista was kind enough to make some dinner and then we went to bed at 8 o'clock, I think. I slept like a rock until morning.
So... we start again on September 17th... wish us luck!!
P.S. And although it's really quite annoying and frustrating to go through all this, we are not fleeing forest fires, we are not trying to get to higher ground due to flooding, we are not escaping a war-torn zone... we are putting everything in perspective. We can manage another two weeks.
P.S.S. We just this minute received Colleen and Drew's Airbnb review (our last guests). Here it is:
“Anne and Kevin were the best hosts we have ever had the pleasure to stay with! What they have done to the property shows the love and dedication they have put in to making Hush Valley Lodge what it is today. The Dota region is such a special place and staying there gives you a much more real Costa Rican experience than the bigger tourist areas of the country. Make sure to do the coffee tour because it will forever change how you view coffee and the process that goes into it. I highly recommend for everyone to stay here. It is such a surreal experience staying in this hidden gem and enjoying the breathtaking property. Getting to catch your own trout and have the most delicious meals brought into your own cozy casita is an unmatchable experience. Take the hikes and explore the property because it is too superb to miss! Make sure to give Bobby extra lovin because she is the best hiking companion (and will show you the right paths to take if confused!) We hope to come back one day and experience this magical paradise with the new owners Krista and Dave. We know the beauty and charm that Kevin and Anne have put into the place will carry over into good hands. Now it's time for the new owners to have this place change their lives for the better as it did for Anne and Kevin! If you have found this place through airbnb and are considering it but unsure due to not many reviews yet, just book it and you will not regret it! We were the last guests of the previous owners, and the new owners will start fresh with their airbnb for this place. If we could give it 10 stars we would. A truly unique unforgettable experience you will not forget!”
Over and out!
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
Click here to pick up your copy of Anne's book! It's all about their adventure and the establishment of Hush Valley Lodge: from leaving their middle-class suburban lifestyle in Canada to reinventing themselvess in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica. Check it out and if you enjoy it, please spread the word! Thanks!